MBTA budget presents obstacle
STONYBROOK—The Community Planning Committee for the Arborway Yard (CPCAY) officially voted to support the 90 percent design for the Arborway Yard facility at its Dec. 7 meeting. The vote was unanimously in favor.
Members also took the opportunity to brainstorm ways to persuade MBTA General Manager Richard Davey to allocate the necessary $200 million and include the Arborway Yard project in next year’s Capital Investment Program (CIP) The public comment period for that document ends on Jan. 10.
The CIP is a document that outlines and authorizes the MBTA’s use of funds over the next five years. Inclusion in the CIP does not ensure funding but the MBTA cannot operate or build any projects not included in the CIP.
“The question is, what comes out of the CIP so the Arborway Yard can go in?” CPCAY chairman Henry Allen said. “The timing is critical here,” he added.
The temporary bus yard currently on the site on Washington Street is already two years over its intended five-year lifespan.
The CPCAY members compiled a list of over 20 organizations and elected officials from whom to request letters of support. They also decided to try to gather greater media focus on the issue.
“The embarrassment and pressure [of media exposure] does a lot,” Joyce Perkit, a CPCAY member, said at the meeting.
The MBTA Board and Massachusetts Department of Transportation will convene to vote on the current CIP in early April. If the Arborway Yard is not included in that version of the CIP, the project will have to wait another year at least for inclusion.
According to the 90 percent design, presented to the community at a meeting on Oct. 27, the 10.1-acre facility would include a 118-space “bus barn” building, a 10-bay maintenance and fueling facility, an underground 275-space parking garage for MBTA employees and a bus wash station.
The MBTA administrative building already present at 500 Arborway would remain standing under the current plan. There is a possibility that the building might be demolished to cut costs.
“It’s a decrepit old building with no lifespan left,” Allen said at the December meeting.
The MBTA would also cede nearly eight acres of the current property to the City for future development that would include low-cost housing, commercial space and further green space, as the Gazette has previously reported.
The controversy-fraught and years-long process started in 1998, when the MBTA announced plans to build a major new transit facility in Forest Hills to replace Bartlett Yard in Roxbury. With strong backing from Mayor Thomas Menino and other officials, residents were able to form CPCAY and get design review authority. That led to years of complex negotiations and an agreement that several acres of land would be given to the city for redevelopment into housing, commercial space and green space.
In 2001, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was negotiated and agreed to by the MBTA and CPCAY that reflected the give-and-take needed to uphold residents’ rights to a safe, livable environment and the need for MBTA buses to be maintained.
In 2007, CPCAY met to approve a final design for the site. MBTA officials stunned everyone by announcing that, despite their previous agreement to the design, they needed a facility 1 acre larger than previously agreed. The next year, CPCAY finally approved a design with a more modest expansion in a controversial vote. Since then, it has pushed for full funding to complete the design and enter construction.
To submit comments to the MBTA, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or write MBTA Budget Office, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116.